|Our house is just in view, bottom left is a gable end and ours is just visible behind it and to the left|
We have just returned from another two weeks. This year has been great for progress - but during this stay, the house joined the 21st century.
Taking the Thursday night ferry from Plymouth, we arrived Friday tea time at our house. As it has been very dry for a while at the house, we parked (for the first time) on our own land. What a great feeling.
After receiving an email from Ruth & Gareth (the english couple who have managed to achieve their fully fledged new life in France) that they had their new fosse, I sent an sms to M. Faure to ask if we could speak with him whilst we were in France in September to see when he would be able to install ours. The reply was 'Je suis entrain d installer votre fosse.' I understood all but the word entrain. Google translate said 'trying'; which could have meant I am trying; I have been trying (for the last 3 years but cant get access); or I will try. I really wasnt sure. My niece said it meant 'I am doing it now.'
The hope was that he would, as we could then install a toilet, even if we needed to take a bucket up to make it flush. (Still had no water to the interior). However, the down side was that the money which we had saved over the last 3 months was now about to be swallowed up in paying for the fosse, rather than progressing the house..... Always, a double edge to the sword. We have been managing for the last 4 years, so maybe we could wait a bit longer.
Looking at the ground around the soon to be parking area, we could see the signs that heavy machinery had been there when there had been wet weather........ Looking passed the trees, nearer to the dependance, we were able to see that sure enough, we had a fosse. The mound of earth which had accumulated from the excavation for the new floors had gone (definite bonus) and there were 'manholes' in the garden, for inspection of the pipes work with a very definite impression left in the ground of the actual receiver of the 'evacuations' as the french call it.
Next, we had to investigate the work which had been done by Michel le Pierre - which was to render the wall of orange block which had been built by M. Mazeau.
We weren't disappointed - this is what it looks like now.
We unpacked and soon had set up - We had both had a terrible sleep on the ferry. The pillow should be ashamed to be called such.....it was flat as a pancake and I dont think either of us slept much. An early night was necessary.
Before we left England, we had contacted the company who had been holding the Rayburn which we bought about 18 months ago and asked them to arrange delivery.
I was assure that it was no problem and it would be with us by the end of the first week.
You might think that it is rather early in the progress of the house to think about the range being brought out, and I would agree. However, having had a couple of experiences now where we have ended up out of pocket by trusting people with our money, I suddenly had an instinct that we should get it delivered, as we might end up without the money or the goods, again. (I hasten to add, not at the hands of the company who had referbed our Rayburn, but others.)
George had come along for his usual road trip and we were a little concerned that he might not behave well around the geese, ducks and chickens for sale, but he wasn't in the least bit interested. Maybe that bodes well for when we have our own?
We also visited a shop called WELDOM. They have just about everything we could think of. Buying a toilet which was on special offer, we had to find the correct connector, as Simon was quite stressed that the hole was in the wall for the pipe work, but might not be at the right height. We managed to find a flexi hose and some other bits, like a sealing cement and headed home. (It's so nice to use that word. Sometimes, it feels that we dont have a home and that we are lodging somewhere, rootless. I do look forward to when I can live in my home.)
The toilet was surprisingly heavy, so we got the wheelbarrow to the back of the car, to transport it over to the house. I suggested we unpack it to get it up the ladder and into the bathroom, which we did, and Simon attached the hose to the loo and the hole in the wall, using the cement to seal. We now just had to wait 24 hours for this to set before we could risk putting water into it.
We carried on like this for a couple of days, savouring the pleasure of having a loo in the house. It was only a slight dampener to have to carry water from the back of the house, around and up the ladder. The pleasure was amazing. You certainly appreciate the convenience of things, when you have been without for a prolonged period.
Simon and I carried on as usual, getting what jobs we are capable of, done. I discovered that the door to the end of the bread oven, where the pigeons used to roost, had come off one of its hinges in the intervening months, and Dominique, our immediate neighbour had removed it totally, as it was flapping in the wind and might have come off and damaged her car.
When I investigated the door, it was obvious that it was not worth re-instating it, so said to Simon that we should make a new on. We thought it would be easy enough....... a bit of T & G and a bit of wood for a brace, how difficult could it be?
We measured the door hole and off I toddled to Cheze. The chap was so helpful. I bought two lengths of T & G and he cut them to the length we had not so accurately taken. I then wanted a piece of batten like wood to use for the brace. Sure enough, they had the perfect thing, already chamfered, so that saved me a job. He was going to cut this for me too, but was concerned as to the length of the cross piece. He spoke to a colleague and they were trying to work out on paper how long it needed to be. Me - ever practical, took my tape measure off the pocket of my jeans, as though I was drawing a sword...Pulled out the tape and measured the distance between the two pieces of wood........ Job done. Next, I wanted something to fix it all together with. Having acted as Chippies mate in a previous life, I knew that a professional would nail each tongue to the brace..... Sorry, but I needed something a little more simple, as my control of the hammer is not that great and I usually end up with bent nails, painful thumbs/fingers and a cross temper. (My saw action isn't bad though.) Again, Cheze had just the thing, so I headed the the Caisse and paid.
Proudly returning home with all my goodies, I showed Simon what I'd bought. I think it all cost about €20. I got the drill and bits and all the little gadgets that go with the drill and set to work - using the step as a work bench, I'm not that professional. Also, we dont have a work bench, and as with most things, use what we find and make do. There is a certain song which goes through my head, you might know it by the video... "Push me". Placing all the T & G pieces together and then 'professionally' measuring where the ledges should go, proceeded to drill holes and put these 'bolts' that I'd bought through the holes and tightening up the bolts. Just about finishing the last one, Pierre, the chap who had done the work over the last winter for us, appeared with Gareth who was coming to aid with translation. Pierre was here to find out what we want him to do and so it was quite important to ensure that we were understanding each other. As it turned out, Gareth thought that I was doing just fine and didnt really need assistance.
Pierre asked what we had been up to since we arrived. I proudly (yet rather shyly at the same time) showed him my door...... It was just about ready for varnishing. Pierre picked up the ratchet screw driver and put the right socket into it and showed me that rather than leaving the studs exposed on the other side, all we needed to do was to tighten the nut up and it pulled the stud into the wood. Hey presto, I now had a professional looking studded door. I fell in love with those bolts there and then. We also told him that we had installed a toilet and that we were putting water down it to flush. Pierre went up and had a look and was impressed with what Simon had done. He said he would be back the next day with the necessary bits and he would connect up the water for us, so that we would have a flushing toilet! HEAVEN! He also said he would let us have an old kitchen sink as a temporary measure to make life easier. He would connect it all up and discounting that we would still need to boil up the water on the stove, we were now also able to boast a functioning kitchen sink!
This proved to be a bit more of a struggle than expected in actual fact, as the 'kitchen' was still in the snug as was the table, so all dishes had to be transferred with no work surface to put them on and then go back for the hot water, washing, drying and returning for more dirties in relay...... But we were getting there!
We have arranged works for the winter with Pierre and when we return in April/May 2014, (5 years after we bought it!! ) we should be able to put up the kitchen in the room where it will actually go in future, even if it is still the camp kitchen.
Simon cracked on building a wall down the side of the barn to retain the pipe work taking the rainwater away from the back of the house. He did a really good job....
Here you can see that the pipe is about to disappear under a step.
During all this time, there was no sign of the rayburn.
On the Wednesday of the second week, I was starting to get quite anxious about it. In the afternoon, I received a call from the French delivery company. They were shocked with the news that we were due to leave on the Sunday and would not be back for several months. I was told that the package would not arrive in Paris until Thursday and there was no way it could be delivered in time. EEEK! He said he would call me back the next day. Sure as eggs are eggs, he called me back Thursday afternoon to say that they would be able to deliver on Friday. Amazing..... it was being brought down over night I guess.
Friday dawned and we had no idea when the package would arrive, but amazingly, it arrived about 10 am. This then became the next instalment of the fiasco's. I dont know what a Rayburn weighs, but I'm sure its pretty heavy. The guy only had a manual sack truck and could not get the delivery wagon down the Impasse because it was too tall to pass under the wires. He got it off the lorry and onto the sack truck. He looked at the Impasse and said no way, could he get the range down to the house.
I wonder if I'm a good negotiator, or just plain determined. Suffice to say, we did get him to deliver it, on the sack truck to the double doors of the house. Stage one of delivery complete. Now how do we get it into the house. I wondered if a local farmer (of which there are many) might have a tractor with a fork on the front, who could just lift it over the threshold for us.
I went hot foot up to the Mairie, as it clearly could not stay where it was.
On reaching the Mairie, Dominique who works there (and a different person altogether to our neighbour who is also called Dominique) was concerned as I was out of breath and she realised I had rushed up the hill. I think she thought that we must have a dire emergency, as in all the 4 years we have had the house, we have never asked for help.
I explained the problem as best I could and the Maire was in his office at the time. One of the deputy Maires (Christian) who I had passed on the way up as he was mucking out his cows, was working just behind the Mairie. M. Ragacki, our Maire, leaned out of the window and asked if Christian would have a look at our problem and see if he could help. Christian said to give him 5 minutes whilst he went and got his van - he'd be right with us. I route-marched Georgie, who had been conned into thinking that he was going for a nice walk, back to the house. When I got back, Simon couldn't believe I'd even gone, it had all been so quick. Two minutes later, Christian arrived. He wanted to know what was in the packaging and proceeded to unwrap the cling-film and cardboard which was protecting my range. I didn't want this to happen, but it was fair enough that he wanted to see what he was dealing with, and after all, we were asking for his help. When he got to the range, we could see that one of the new lids had come off its hinge in transit, but the good thing about all of these less technical bits of equipment is that you dont need to be an expert to fix it.
Christian thought that our Rayburn was 'beau' but wanted to know how much of it he could take apart to lighten the load. Now I really was getting concerned. He might take it all apart and leave us to put it back together. I didnt want that to happen at all. I think he could tell from my expression, so stopped trying to take it apart.
He asked if there was someone else in the village we could ask for help, I said Pierre Benedetti was helping us and doing some work, maybe he was in the village today and would help us. Christian said he would call on Pierre and they would be back at 2pm after lunch.
Simon was worried that I hadn't understood Christian properly and that we were supposed to call Pierre. I was doubting myself by this time and so called Pierre (I didnt want Christian turning up and we were no further forward than in the morning.) Pierre said that Christian had been to see him and he would see us at 2pm.
Once again, bang on the dot, Christian and Pierre arrived separately in what appears to be the favourite vehicle in the area, the Berlingo. Pierre's 2 year old son, Angel was with him and he was sucking on his dummy, telling us he was here to help his Daddy work. He is such a little cutie and is about the same age as my Granddaughter. I wondered if they would meet at some point and play together? It would be lovely if when Kayla visits, she knew there was a little person that she could relate to.
Whilst the men got to work, I took on the role of child minder. Angel wanted to build, tie things up with rope and wrap the rope around his arm in his best impression of copying his dad. The he saw the cement mixer...... He wanted to load it up with everything he could find, tip water in it from every source he could find water and wanted me to turn it on. I told him it was broken and he very obviously didnt believe me! He just kept on putting everything he could find into it and wanted me to lift him up every now and then, so that he could see the progress he was making, filling it up.
Then he spied the trench Simon had dug to bury the rain water pipe which came down the front of the house. Oh, was that like a kiddy in a sweet shop! He found a spade ( my mortar board for pointing) picked up sand from one of the bags of sand (the big kind, which hold 1 cubic metre) which Simon had almost emptied and was now well within the reach of a two year old and proceeded to fill in the trench (which still needed filling in). Angel has obviously closely observed his dad working, he knew just what to do and after filling the hole with sand, started back filling it for us. What a helpful boy!
Its a pity he spoiled this good work. George, who is not used to children at all, had been following Angel all this time, and thought he was great - Angel however, decided that an old bramble cane which he found, and which was flayed on the end, was the perfect thing with which to hit George. Poor George had no idea what was happening, he's never been hit in his life and was cowering away from Angel. I was trying to hold Angel at arms length so that he could no-longer reach George and at the same time reassure George that it was ok, no one was going to hurt him like that. The men, by this time, having finished getting the range over the threshold and into the house were standing around talking and having a beer. When Pierre realised what was going on, I think he was mortified. He came over to Angel and said in a very firm but not unkind way "Non! Jamais, jamais' Which was telling Angel ' you dont do that'. Angel look very unhappy at this, but soon recovered when it came time to pick up daddies rope and put it into the back of the car. And so, the latest crisis had been averted and my range was at last in its new home, even if it is too soon to fit it.
On the social front, we were invited to M. Benchereau's for Sunday lunch again. She is such a good cook and feeds us up very well. She also plied us with Rothschild champagne! She had told us during the week, that it had been her 65th birthday in August and that we were to come for lunch. We were a little worried that it was going to be a full on birthday party. Conversing with Guiguite on a one to one basis is one thing. I feel relaxed and can manage (I think, unless she is extremely polite, which is quite likely!) but to be in the middle of a gathering for someones birthday..... different matter altogether. I went the Gannat the day before to see what I could find as a present. I went in to two or three of the nice dress shops, looking for inspiration and finally settled on a lovely scarf which hopefully would keep her warm in the winter.
It funny really, Guiguite would not be flattered to know that I think of her like a Grandmother figure - she is only 13 years older than me, but I think its because Camille was so much older, I forget that she was 20 years younger.
We managed to wade our way through the enormous lunch she provided. We could not eat anything else for 24 hours! Poor Simon was fit to pop (and that's saying something, cos he can pack it away!) I think (hope) that Guiguite enjoyed our company as we enjoy hers. I certainly make her laugh, but that's probably with my bad French. Like the time that I told the gardener that Simon was having an affair (my bad french) when I was really trying to say in answer to his question as to why simon does not speak much, as he understands the language. I was trying to say that he's anxious of making a mistake.... but it was me that was making the mistake, using the wrong word!
On the Wednesday, Annie, Denis and Michel came around for dinner and we had a lovely evening as always. We certainly got through the 'supplies' and the next morning, it took me until lunch time to wash up. I put it down to the relay that was necessary moving things to my new sink and back and boiling water. The truth is somewhere between there and a headacheless hangover.
When we went to the Chateau on the Friday for dinner, Annie greeted us with a lovely glass of fizz with a lychee in. I thought this was lovely and really enjoyed it, until it occured to me that the Lychee looked like an eyeball in the bottom of the glass..... then I had difficulty actually eating it!
Annie is such a savvy lady. The fizz she was serving came in a bottle with an orange label and I immediately thought OMG... she's serving us Veuve Clicquot....... She was wearing this lovely blue dress and cardi, with contrasting shoes and a fabulous ring that was an inch square and blue.
During the evening, after we'ed all had a bit to drink, I asked if I could look at her ring and asked her if it was a saphire. She just told me to look at the back. Being blind as a bat close up, I had no chance of reading anything but that wasnt what I wanted anyhow. It was just lovely to hold it and admire - the nearest I'm ever going to come to such a jewel.. Simon asked to have a look and the next day, he told me it was Cartier. I guess it was real then!
But back to the fizz. After Annie invited Simon and I for a tour of her private apartments which are in the process of being done up ( and let me tell you, they are mind blowing. Not my style but boy...... amazing all the same) we settle down to chat around the kitchen table and have a little more to drink. I picked up the bottle of fizz saw that it wasn't Veuve. Phew! I really would feel like the peasant at the big house, as I'd only been able to afford Blanquette de Limoux, which is rather nice, but not in the same class, obviously.
I thought I'd make a mental note so that I could buy some, as it was rather nice. You will never believe me if I tell you how much it cost! I brought a couple of bottles back with me, but only two, as I wasnt sure when I saw the price, whether it was the Lychee's and juice making it so nice. Let me just say, I wish I had known then what I know now. I would have brought a couple of cases back and still had change from the price of one bottle of the Rothschild, which was on the shelf at €25! I could learn a lot from Annie, that's for sure! Maybe it would mean I could own a Cartier ring!
Sadly, the end of our stay came and when the alarm went on the Sunday morning, I told Simon I would rather stay where I was, with all the inconveniences that we were dealing with that return to the stressful atmosphere that we live in. I know that each time we have to come back, it is going to get harder, as the house becomes more habitable. But here and now, let me apologise to all those who felt my blues on the return. When reality of the next 7 months dawned on me, I sank into a pit of dispair...... I'm not the biggest fan of Dr Who, but when David Tenant regenerated his last words were "I dont want to go" and I'm afraid that I really felt it this time.
Life is beginning to return to my house - Gareth and Ruth have a self sown Cherry tree for us (and they are told by the village elders that their cherry tree is the best in the village). Ruth has said that she will come and plant it for us and also water it until it take. The live at least a mile away and I cant get over the generosity of making the trip every few days to water a tree for us. I offered to fill out water but up, so that they only had to use the watering can across the garden. Ruth was adamant it wasnt necessary, she would bring some with her in the car. She is also putting some herbs into my little kitchen garden, so when we go out next year, it will be starting to look like someone does love it and will be living there. (In the picture above of the render, you can see Simon placed some stones to mark out my kitchen garden. I'm not thrilled about the squareness of it, but I dare say, it will change.
|and now - Sept 2013|
|This is how the house looked when we bought it.|